When I was very young, I had a reoccurring nightmare of a black, shaggy wolf with red piercing eyes. I would hear him panting and snarling outside my window. When I tried to run out of my room he would pounce and land on my long, white dresser. Hackles standing on the back of his neck, he would just stare, his canines sharp and dripping as he held my terrified gaze.
At night lying in my bed alone in the dark, my eyes would dart fitfully between the shadows and the looming window. I hated to be alone in that bedroom at night. The window took up half the available wall space and hid behind heavy, pink, floor to ceiling curtains. I was petrified that the wolf was lurking behind those closed curtains, that if they moved, he would be right there, staring in my window. If I had to get up for a glass of water or use the bathroom, my heart would pound and my hands would sweat just holding the doorknob. Was he waiting in the long dark hallway for me? Would he appear out of the menacing shadows to devour me?
As I grew older the dream faded. By the time I was a teenager the dream disappeared altogether. I was no longer the timid little girl I had been. I lashed out. I rebelled. I fought the man. I fought my parents. I broke rules, just because I could. I hung out with the wrong crowd. I swore, I ranted, I laughed, I danced, I played—I had a blast.
Then I grew older still, and I conformed. I caved in. I fell prey to other people’s expectations. I towed the line. I kept my mouth shut. I struggled to keep up with the Joneses. I repressed my desires, my dreams, and my passions. On the outside I appeared happy and content. I had the house, the car— the 1.5 children. But silently, inside I stewed and seethed. I was miserable. I was diminished. I was suffocating.
Around this time wolves began reappearing in my nocturnal journeys. No longer black with red eyes, they appeared in their natural form, in their natural habitats, lurking behind trees, watching from fields and valleys. While no longer supernatural, they nonetheless instilled fear in the dreamer me and I would wake with a thundering heart and clammy hands.
Theories abound regarding the purpose of dreams and their mystical interpretations. One theory suggests that whatever we are dreaming about is the nervous system’s way of releasing pent up emotions and feelings—things we were not able to confront and move through in our waking lives. On an outing to a northern aboriginal community I met a shaman. He told me I had been misinterpreting my dreams. The wolf was not trying to attack me or hurt me; he was trying to talk to me. The wolf was my ally. He was a messenger. He represented the anger I had been repressing and I needed to confront it.
We don’t always receive such vivid images and clues about the negativity we are holding inside—the emotions and feelings that are slowly and methodically eating us alive. Sometimes they manifest in more elusive ways like intermittent chest pain, back and neck tightness or gastrointestinal issues. Often we hear the term ‘dis-ease’—the concept that whatever is causing us ‘dis’-comfort is causing physical disease. Science has proven that stress can cause disease in the body, and it can exacerbate already pre-existing conditions. It is essential to recognize the wolves, tigers, piranhas or parasites that we are carrying around inside us—the negative emotions and feelings that we shove deep down inside, brushing them under the rug because they seem too huge, too overpowering, and we are afraid to confront them.
Whether you rely on a counsellor or physician to help you move through your pain, or find solitary constructive ways to release your negative emotions and energy by engaging in activities such as writing, painting, running, yoga or meditation, it is imperative to address them so you can release them from your body, mind, and soul.
I no longer have wolves in my dreams. I have learned how to constructively release my anger, frustration and pain by engaging in things I enjoy, things that are important to me like writing, yoga, dancing and laughing. We cannot allow pain to take up residence and move in. We need to let go of anything that has held us back from experiencing joy in the present moment and it is essential to address negativity the instant it occurs. Sticks and stones won’t break my bones, and names no longer hurt! I acknowledge when I don’t feel good. I put my emotions and feelings into words. If I am angry at how someone has treated me, I let them know—in an empathetic and respective manner of course! But I do not let the anger simmer and boil, and I never take it out on someone else. My anger, my sadness, guilt or frustration is my own personal reaction to a situation, and I always address situations that cause feelings of discomfort. I don’t wallow in second guessing; I don’t wade in sorrowful waters. I step out of the muck and let the sludge slide off—like water off a duck's back, negativity can’t stick to me. And if you can find a way to honour what is important to you, if you can stand up for yourself and your dreams and desires, if you make more time to enjoy the things you love, that you are passionate about, you too can walk away from the ravenous wolves forever!